Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - The Elite - Part 1
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The Elite - Part 1 10/22/2007 - 9:00 PM


Well, as we wrap up Madrid with another getting-to-be-routine 2-3-1, one comment in a Crisis Center thread stood out for me - that the win showed that David Nalbandian is a Tier 1 player.

So this may be a good time to serve up a stew of rich, meaty stats for TW's voracious readers.  I also noticed that Novak Djokovic's ATP ranking points make him the highest ranked player (at least since 2000) not to own a Grand Slam title.  Now, Nalbandian has been around for a while, while Djokovic is a fresh young thing (by my standards at least).  Is there anything we can tell about players by looking at a single stat - their highest ATP ranking points total?

Right away we get into difficulty, because the ATP's ranking system changes over time.  The current system has been in place since Jan 1st 2000, and they'll be changing it again in 2009 (the 2000s, 1000s, 500s and 250s, yeech).  More to the point, when we go back before 2000, the number of points awarded to a player for performance in an ATP tournament - say, reaching a Grand Slam quarterfinal - was quite different.

Rosangel has also pointed out in her earlier analysis ("Simply The Best?") that the whole tournament structure was different in the 1970s and 1980s; for example, fewer top players competed in the Australian Open, and the tournament circuit wasn't directly comparable to the one we have today.

So any attempt to use ATP ranking points to look at players over time is going to be imprecise, but I hope that by the time I've been through this you'll think the exercise worthwhile.  I've compiled maximum ranking points for all players making the top 50 since Jan 2007, and a set of the greats of the Open Era from 1973 onwards.  For the former greats - Borg, Wilander, Lendl et al - I've estimated the maximum number of ranking points they might have won had the tournaments of the day been awarding ranking points as they do now. I've also given , in the fourth column, the player's age at the time the maximum was achieved.

Player Born Max rating* Age Max Slams
Federer, Roger 1981 8370 25.40 12
Sampras, Pete 1971 7265 22.98 14
Lendl, Ivan 1960 7040 22.62 8
Agassi, Andre 1970 6770 25.38 8
McEnroe, John 1959 6455 25.94 7
Borg, Bjorn 1956 6430 22.37 11
Connors, Jimmy 1952 6220 22.06 8
Nadal, Rafael 1986 5605 21.19 3
Courier, Jim 1970 5590 21.79 4
Edberg, Stefan 1966 5585 25.90 6
Wilander, Mats 1964 5240 23.40 7
Hewitt, Lleyton 1981 5205 21.51 2
Roddick, Andy 1982 5185 21.92 1
Becker, Boris 1967 5120 23.80 6
Kuerten, Gustavo 1976 4750 25.04 3
Ferrero, Juan Carlos 1980 4570 23.69 1
Djokovic, Novak 1987 4470 20.32
Safin, Marat 1980 4300 21.13 2
Rafter, Patrick 1972 4025 28.76 2
Coria, Guillermo 1982 3770 22.50
Norman, Magnus 1976 3610 24.13
Davydenko, Nikolay 1981 3415 26.22
Nalbandian, David 1982 3360 24.49
Ljubicic, Ivan 1979 3315 27.54
Schuettler, Rainer 1976 3205 27.73

* For most of the inactive players, I have estimated their maximum ranking points based on detailed analysis of career tournament results. Owing to the imprecision of the exercise, you should factor in a +/- 200 point spread for the estimated points totals - so Courier and Edberg (for example) essentially reached the same level. Active players are on the green lines.

A number of things jump out from the table.  First, you can see that the 4000 points-or-so level seems to divide Grand Slam winners from those who can get to an occasional final and several semi finals.

In fact, since 2000 (32 Grand Slam tournaments) only three players - Carlos Moya (3160), Gaston Gaudio (2440) and Thomas Johannsson (2365) - have captured a Grand Slam and not had maximum career ranking points above 4000.

Second, the level  of 4000-5000 points appears to represent the Tier 1 threshhold.  Only Novak Djokovic, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Andy Roddick have exceeded 4000 ATP ranking points and not (yet) won two or more slams.  In Djokovic's case (obviously) and Roddick's case (possibly) we might say the jury is out on whether they'll end their careers with two or more majors.

Then we get to the 5000 points level, which is the gateway to multiple slams.  Becker, Edberg, Courier and Wilander breached this level.  As has Nadal, whose three Roland Garros slams portend many more to come - but will he step beyond the clay with a Wimbledon or two, or Australian or US Open title?

At 6000+ points, you reach (in my book) the Pantheon.  Here's the circle of players who will knock the balls around with Bill Tilden, Ellsworth Vines, Don Budge, Bobby Riggs, Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales, Lew Hoad, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Ken Rosewall in tennis' Valhalla.  Here we have Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe - each with seven or more GS titles (and as Rosangel pointed out, maybe more had the Australian Open been a fixture back in their day).  And, of course, Roger Federer.  His loss to David Nalbandian yesterday takes him just below the highest (estimated) ranking achieved in his career by Pete Sampras.  Terminal decline, anyone?

By the way, another statistician has also charted the Federer - Sampras relationship here.  Our methodologies may yield very slightly different numbers, but we see the same patterns.

When it comes to age, it's no surprise to find that it's a young man's game: for the 25 players listed, the average age at which they achieved their highest ranking points total (known or estimated) is 23.9 years.  It's interesting that none of the 25 players I've looked at achieve their maximum ranking points level in their teens, and 9 out of 25 were over 25 when they achieved their highest ATP ranking points.

One final thought before I leave this topic: how strong is the relationship between maximum ranking points and number of Grand Slam titles won?  Pretty strong, it turns out.


The correlation coefficient between maximum ranking points and Grand Slams won is about 0.8 - not bad.  And that allows me to conclude with one more thought.  If Roger Federer never achieves a higher ranking than the 8370 he reached at the end of 2006, but wins the number of Grand Slam titles predicted in the relationship above - i.e., reaches the red line in the chart - he'll end his career on 17-18 titles.  Not a bad haul for a lad from Basel.

-- Andrew

(Thanks to Rosangel for the photo and suggestions after a first draft.  UPDATE: thanks to Miguel Seabra for pointing out an error in the number of GS titles assigned to WIlander.)

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Posted by gvgirl 10/22/2007 at 09:16 PM


Posted by gvgirl 10/22/2007 at 09:20 PM

Roseangel, TW needs to hire you as chief stats and charts wizard!

Posted by gvgirl 10/22/2007 at 09:22 PM


very interesting look at the all time greats comparison by points. I never would have thought about it. What would Laver have received in his best year I wonder.

Posted by Tari 10/22/2007 at 09:23 PM

Oh, man. Well, I need to digest this post (I DID read it, I swear!), but I must swoon now...Borg is in da house. :)

Posted by 10/22/2007 at 09:34 PM


Posted by servesmasher 10/22/2007 at 09:35 PM


Posted by jb (now waiting for a motherboard) 10/22/2007 at 09:36 PM

oooh - now this is interesting! I need to look at this! I've often wondered how the past greats would do if their points would be factored into today's system. Thanks for doing the hard work for me!

*pages back up to peruse the chart - humming merrily*

Posted by servesmasher 10/22/2007 at 09:38 PM


Posted by jb (now waiting for a motherboard) 10/22/2007 at 09:38 PM

PAT RAFTER WAS 28??!!! good heavens!

*scrolls back up*

Posted by sophie 10/22/2007 at 09:39 PM

When did Nadal achieve 5605 points?

Posted by jb (now waiting for a motherboard) 10/22/2007 at 09:41 PM

mhm - now i want to add another column. Slams won AFTER they hit their max points.....

*off to look at more stats*

Posted by Heidi 10/22/2007 at 09:41 PM

Fascinating. Thank you so much!

I do note that Hewitt and Roddick would throw your graph off a bit, though, since they have relatively few titles but high points.

Posted by jb (now waiting for a motherboard) 10/22/2007 at 09:48 PM

heehee - figures Rosangel supplied the pic. Borg looks hott!

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 10/22/2007 at 09:51 PM

Andrew ,

You and Rosia should write a book together called "Tennis by numbers" . You guys are just amazing.

well, I won't be zolarafa if I don't mention that among these greats Rafa is the youngest and I hope he goes further up in this ladder.

I love the graph too. What is the corelation between GS and ATP ranking points is very interesting. If you put Rafa and Fed on that line Rafa should have won 6 GS and fed should have won 16 GS. If you take Fed out of wimbledon Rafa could have had 5 GS and without Rafa Fed could have had 15 GS, which is very close to what the line predicts and I like that.

I have to read the rest and find out the relation with Nalbandian. Boy, if only he knew what he has initiated!

Posted by Miguel Seabra 10/22/2007 at 09:55 PM

Fascinating job, Andrew -- highly interesting!

One thing though: just yesterday I was saying on tv commentary that Mats Wilander (who's been helping out Tatiana Golovin, and I was commentating the Zurich final) had won 7 Slams... so, when I saw 8 in that list I got a major scare and went after confirmation! The guy actually won 7 (3 RG + 3 AO + 1 USO).

It's interesting to see that Nadal, at number 2, has a clearly higher maximum rating than others that were number one in this decade -- such as Marat Safin, Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Juan Carlos Ferrero... even when Agassi was number one in this decade, his total was inferior to Nadal's!

So, if there wasn't a Federer, Nadal would be number one. If there wasn't a Nadal, federer would have won the Grand Slam and surpassed Sampras!

Oh, and Federer is losing matches this year he wouldn't lose either in 2006 nor in 2005...

Posted by sophie 10/22/2007 at 09:58 PM

Found the answer, on August 13th, which makes him 21.2 I think, but, hey, don't want to be picky in the face of this exercise which must have taken forever...well done, Andrew, and no, I don't see Federer in terminal decline as he won 3 GS after getting his max points.

Posted by Bismarck 10/22/2007 at 10:03 PM

fascinating indeed. and interesting. and somehow sad.

if we can believe the age Andrew gave for nadal´s point max. (21.19) this should have occured sometime this summer, mid-august 2007 is my guess, probably after he added points in montreal (due to the SF there) but before he lost points in cincy and the USO.

Posted by Bismarck 10/22/2007 at 10:06 PM

oh! 5 minutes late.
but now i´m interested in Andrew´s take on the "21.19 or 21.2 controversy". ;)

Posted by John C 10/22/2007 at 10:10 PM

Interesting that Lendl appears to have peaked points wise in 1983 when he was 23, before he won any slams. I would have guessed he peaked in 86 or 87.

Looks like MacEnroe peaked in 85, based I guess on the strength of his 84 campaign.

Posted by jb (now waiting for a motherboard) 10/22/2007 at 10:15 PM

heehee - the "21.19 or 21.2 controversy". i'd love to stay up - but i'm going to be a good, sensible little girl and go to bed.

(early day at work tomorrow....)

uhm - sampras won 11 of his slams AFTER he reached high point in the rankings. Lendl - 8. Agassi, borg and connors 5. I find that a bit scary.... Unless I read stuff wrong. someone correct me?

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 10/22/2007 at 10:27 PM

I think there is also a high correlation between not getting more than 200 ATP points and deciding that law school might be a better option :)

Posted by Bismarck 10/22/2007 at 10:34 PM

and i ask myself -
what follows in the next installment of The Elite, i.e. Part 2?
and how many parts will follow til this is finished? is it a total of 3 like the godfather or 7 like harry potter?

hmm...will part 2 be the stats of the lesser beings, i.e the ones who made top 50 this year but nothing else (yet)? but what can the number there possibly show us other than that they are to low for greatness?

i´m intrigued. the construction of this post is such a clever cliffhanger, Andrew. nicely done.

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 10/22/2007 at 10:35 PM

**When did Nadal achieve 5605 points?**

August 13, 2007!

Posted by Ren 10/22/2007 at 10:53 PM

I don't know if this makes sense, but it seems to me that number of tours would somehow affect the results of the rankings. If there were lesser tours in the 70's, for instance, than today, how were such factors controlled so as to compare an equitably representation of the generations?

Posted by Pierre Des Joachims 10/22/2007 at 11:23 PM

Rainer Schuettler?

Posted by Snoo Foo 10/22/2007 at 11:27 PM

hey Rainer Schuettler has some impressive trivia status which I now can't remember what it was, the only dude to maintain a certain ranking for 10 years, something like that, along the lines of "finishing the year in the top 80 for 10 consecutive years." Sort of like the TMF of journeymen.

Posted by Pierre Des Joachims 10/22/2007 at 11:33 PM

Thanks for the info, Snoo Foo.

Rainer Schuettler...?

Posted by Syd 10/22/2007 at 11:37 PM

Yeah. Were the number of tournies factored in. And Roddick looks like a major anomalie here. I mean, what happens when you drop percipitiously after max pointd.

Plus it just looks wrong to have Roddick ahead of hello, Becker. Check it out, Rafter and Keurten. This just ain't right...

Posted by Aaron Lecciones 10/22/2007 at 11:44 PM

Very interesting!!! I wish someone can do this for the women's game it will be great!!!! Gratz to the author!

Posted by rudi 10/22/2007 at 11:46 PM

I notice Marat's name is on this short list of elite players, so I want to add my voice here about Martins so-called editorial piece in 'Viewpoint" I must say I am very shocked to see such offensive language representing an official voice in such a genteel sport as tennis.
His piece is nothing but a defamatory mugging that debases Marat's character, including his intelligence, his work ethic, his goals, his integrity, and self esteem, while attempting to destroy all that Marat has achieved.
It is peppered with words like "meathead and dude", among many insulting comments while pretending to have the players interest at heart. He cynically recommends a future in poker...does he know Marat that he can offer personal advice?
Marat does no need to defend himself with his list of achievements, both for Russia, himself, his family and fans. But I take it personally: it is as if Martin is suggesting that all the fans including myself, who watch Marat must be totally stupid because there could not be one redeeming thing about him. (Except Martin says, his talent and smile)
Marat has brought talent, personality, humor, charm, beauty and honesty to the game. He has always accomodated media and fans. That he is vulnerable and did not play according to script does not mean he deserve this.
A blog is what it is, but a vitriolic tabloid piece passing as editorial comment is desperate. How does Tennis Magazine stand behind the cowardly Martin, or do we NOT deserve better because we occupy the underbelly of media, the stinking trenches of the internet?

Posted by Andrew 10/22/2007 at 11:55 PM

Hi, all!

Miguel Seabra: er, oops. Nice catch. Wilander does have seven GS titles - I accidentally "promoted" him. Will fix and correct.

Nadal's and Djokovic's "max ATP rankings" are obviously highly provisional - as are the number of GS titles they'll end up with. When I was crunching numbers around the anticipated points Nadal would go into Shanghai with (assuming he avoided injury) I had a high probability that he'd exceed 6000. As we know, this year he has faded in the second half of the season as he did last year, which I ascribe to physical factors, not a lesser ability to play on hard courts per se.

Bismarck - there will be (likely) two more posts, both of which will look at the "arc" of players' careers. For the now-retired set, we know what their career arcs looked like, although I don't think they've ever been charted visually. For the current crop, we don't know their futures - which makes it fun. But there are patterns which have played out in the players of the past which might give us clues to the direction of our current heroes. Or, in your case, objects of, um, dissatisfaction.

John C: hold that thought. Lendl's career arc is very interesting.

Ren: you can't fully control for the changes in the tour structure over time. Rosangel talked about this in her "Simply The Best" post. We know that Borg finished with 11 GS titles, but he only played in the Australian Open once, in 1973 (R16 loss to Phil Dent). Had he played at his peak (say 1975-1981) on the Australian grass, would he have added 1000 points to his max rating and (say) 4 GS titles? We'll never know...

Posted by RedClaw 10/23/2007 at 03:27 AM

Wow, Andrew.
Wow, wow, wow!
I can't think of much to add, except that I hope Fed can keep things up a little while longer.
His loss to Nalbo was a little worrying, but I still think he's largely on track. ;)

And Andrew, I catch a hint of Part 2 - Or perhaps even a part 3.
Thanks for giving a numbers junkie like myself something to feed off of, this is a pile of fun.

Posted by Ren 10/23/2007 at 03:38 AM

Hi Andrew. Thank you for the comment.Now, at least, I know that the number of tours were not factored in. Somehow, this gives me some slack to operate based on the principle of uncertainty: that not all factors can really be analyzed in the aforesaid data. This is not to downplay Roseangel's work. I believe it is a wonderful research. I was just trying to figure out how the maximum ratings were computed, and I was in the hope that perhaps the number of tours is in the formula.

It is nice to see people in the thread analyzing the data. It only means that we tennis fans can be critical and scholarly too, and go beyond the sometimes sickening world of avid admirers who just squabble about the achievements of tennis players who happen to be our favorites. Now, this is talking tennis!

Posted by Ren 10/23/2007 at 03:40 AM

Ah, by the way, do you happen to know where is Fruedian Slip?

Posted by Vishal 10/23/2007 at 03:50 AM

Not bad for casual reading. Good as a descriptive research. But statistically sound? (Is correaltion a good measure of association between the two variables? Prediction for no. of title federer might win is done by using what kind of model? Deductions using simple ratios are fairly inconclusive/unreliable)

Posted by 70's tennis fan 10/23/2007 at 04:32 AM

Wow! That woke the brain cells up!! Bit early in the UK!
Interestingly, why not include Vilas? He won 4 (?) AO x2 FO and USO (?)
Loved the picture!!!

Posted by silvia 10/23/2007 at 05:28 AM

Hi Andrew,

To see the dominance of a player, you can also report a percentage of the total number of points that could have been won given the system in place at his time.

for example, using the current system:

max number of points= 1MC*700+4GS*1000+9MS*500+2ATP*300+2ATP*250=10300

hence federer's highest percentage (of points won) is:


Posted by Staz 10/23/2007 at 06:23 AM

Why is it that the best players keep getting more grandslams than their predecessors even though the competition is getting tougher. I mean Borg got 11 by the time he was 24(?) then Sampras got 14 and now Federer looks like he will overtake him.

Posted by A little bit of mathematics 10/23/2007 at 06:43 AM

Very nice analyses, but I can’t resist ;) :

To say: „the relationship between maximum ranking points and number of Grand Slam titles is strong“ is pleonasm, don’t you think? Because for GS you get the highest number of points, so it is "logical" that your sum is at the end higher. (“the more I learn, the more I know” ;) )


where X>Y>Z
If you increase "a" for "1" your sum will go up for more ("X") than if you increase "b" for "1" ("Y") because X>Y. As simple as that.

Posted by sat in the corner 10/23/2007 at 06:54 AM

The best players keep on getting more because as the saying goes...
"The cream always rises to the top"
A great player is always a great player and in their respective time, they have that ability to dominate as Borg, Sampras and now Roger (Federer) did/do.

Posted by Rosangel 10/23/2007 at 07:27 AM

Well, one reason that the great players of today might be getting more Grand Slams is because they play more of them - as Andrew has pointed out, Borg only played the AO once - it wasn't quite the "prestige" tournament back then that it is today.

It's pretty amazing that so many of them went through 6000 points even in spite of not playing the AO all that much.

Connors played it twice - won in 1974 (over Phil Dent), a finalist in 1975 (against John Newcombe).

Lendl played it 13 times with minimal absences, won it twice (1988-89, against Mecir and Edberg), and was a finalist twice (against Wilander and Becker, in 1983 and 1991)

McEnroe played only five times, got defaulted on one occasion (1990), and never got past the semifinals.

Even Agassi didn't play the AO until 1995, some nine years into his career. Thereafter, he won it four times, starting 1995, against Sampras, Kafelnikov, Clement and Schuettler (the last in 2003).

Pete Sampras played 11 AOs and missed three between 1989 and 2002, and won two of them (against Todd Martin and Carlos Moya), being a finalist once (against Agassi).

Roger Federer has so far never failed to turn up for eight Australian Opens, and has won three of the last four, against Safin, Baghdatis and Gonzalez.

I don't think that changing attitudes to the AO delegitimize any results achieved recently - a Slam win is what it says on the tin. But statistically, it's a fact that players were less likely to achieve three or four Slams in a year, if they were failing to turn up for one of them much of the time.

Posted by Andrew 10/23/2007 at 07:29 AM

Good morning.

Pleonasm. I like the word. I shall have to look it up. :-)

I think I can guess at the meaning, though. ALBOM, above, is right that a GS winner gets lots of ranking points, but a player who wins (for example) 6 GS titles might win 3 titles in their "best" year, and together with some other strong performances have a very high number of ranking points for that year, while another might win one a year over the course of multiple years and end up on a lower peak.

For me, it's interesting that the apparent relationship is as strong as it is. Correlation is never the same as causality, though. It's also interesting that a very simple bit of trend analysis ends up forecasting about the same number of GS titles for Federer at career end as luminaries like Sampras and Agassi have done. Who knew they were doing this kind of stuff? (Tongue very firmly in cheek).

70's tennis fan: you're absolutely right, Vilas should be on the list. I think he had 4 GS titles: AO*2, RG, US Open. He had an utterly insane 1977: according to the ATP site he won Springfield, Buenos Aires, Virginia Beach, Roland Garros, Kitzbuhel, Washington, Louisville, South Orange, Columbus, US Open, Paris, Tehran, Bogota, Santiago, Buenos Aires and Johannesburg WCT. 16 titles - take that, Federer with your puny 12!

Posted by Flyer 10/23/2007 at 07:35 AM

Off topic but:

Morning - anyone know if there is a free live web broadcast available for the Basel matches?

I know last year they were on .... somewhere

Posted by jb (now waiting for a motherboard) 10/23/2007 at 08:23 AM

try this - posted yesterday.

Posted by Flyer 10/23/2007 at 08:29 AM

JB: thanks - but I can't seem to get it working...crap

Posted by Sam 10/23/2007 at 09:10 AM

A little late to the party. Well done, Andrew. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I really liked the breakdown of what the various point thresholds represent to you. Looking forward to the next installment.

Ros: Do you mean 1989 & 1990 for Lendl winning the AO? Wilander won it in 1988.

Posted by evie 10/23/2007 at 10:21 AM

Andrew, this is great! The next installments will be interesting to complete the picture and analysis. Thanks!

Posted by 10/23/2007 at 10:52 AM

Flyer: try this

Posted by Suresh 10/23/2007 at 10:59 AM

Andrew, thanks, that was a great piece of work and thanks to Ros too !!

"Why is it that the best players keep getting more grandslams than their predecessors even though the competition is getting tougher. I mean Borg got 11 by the time he was 24(?) then Sampras got 14 and now Federer looks like he will overtake him."

Borg did not play the Aus Open and he retired early to boot. The same logic holds true for Laver too - in that his career coincided with the amateur era - his majors tally could easily have been higher.

Some players like Rainer Scheuttler being in the list stand out, but as a post pointed out earlier, this chart shows the 'dominant peak' of a player which is not quite the same as 'consistency' over a period of years.


Posted by ptenisnet 10/23/2007 at 11:37 AM

nice work andrew. Does it look like Edberg is the benchmark elite performer?

i am curious
1) how did you come to pick the quantities for the axes the way you did? like - why titles on the y-axes. shouldn't ranking pts be the derived quantity?
2) do you have to be above or below the line to be considered an over-achiever? Or is anyone not on the line an over achiever by some measure?
3) Kafelnikov (4 titles and temporary no. 1) and Rios (mostly just interested. No GS titles. But he was no.1 twice temporarily with ~3500 pts).

Posted by Falkner Skan 10/23/2007 at 11:56 AM

Slams used to be worth 500.
Now they're 1,000.
how about normalizing GS points?

Posted by Dee 10/23/2007 at 12:41 PM

Nice topic for a change, Andrew.

Aloof Boris, naughty Mac and sexy Borg. What a photo!

Looking at the numbers, and the other statistician's graph, I tend to go with jb's line of thinking: How will the players fare with the slams after they peak then go downhill in points?

My guess is, assuming all players are healthy, I have a feeling Federer will add 2 more slams (only) in the next two years; Nadal 3-4; Djokovic 3-4, unknown (namely Gasquet, Berdych, Ancic, etc) 1. Roddick, Hewitt? Well, 1 more slam for these never-say-die guys. Davydenko? Nalbandian? Theirs is still a blurred picture to me for the next 2 years...

Magnus Norman - I didn't realize the guy is over 30. Did he officially retire or did he just fade into the sunset because of his injuries ...

"A slam win is what it says on the tin."

Totally agree, Rosangel.

Posted by Rosangel 10/23/2007 at 01:09 PM

The photo, BTW, was taken during the Parade of Champions held at Wimbledon in 2000.

Posted by Rosangel 10/23/2007 at 01:19 PM

Incidentally, looking at those age stats, it appears that Connors' points may have peaked the year that he won the AO, and Agassi's the first year that he played (and won) it.

Posted by Zaid 10/23/2007 at 02:19 PM

Interesting that Agassi's highest ranking points total was achieved in 1994-95, a period when he won 2 Slams, made a SF & a QF. In 1999-00 he won 3 Slams and made one Final yet had a lower points total.

Posted by Sam 10/23/2007 at 02:36 PM

In addition to his Slams (1994 USO, 1995 AO) Agassi won about 7 hardcourt tournaments during the summer of 1995. I think day in day out he might have been better during 1994-95 than 1999-2000.

Posted by Jenn 10/23/2007 at 02:50 PM

Fantastic job, Andrew! And great input and ideas, Ros (once again). Enjoyed your prior writeup on Madrid, too.

Posted by Andrew 10/23/2007 at 03:01 PM

We'll get to the change in players' rankings over time in the next part of this discussion (part 2). In some cases, players had one or more peaks that were very close to their maximum, separated by years.

ptenisnet: I see the max ATP ranking points as a predictor of the total slams won, not the other way round. Typically (as we see above) a player hits their max ranking in the early-mid part of their career, but they (usually) stay a slam threat for much longer (eg Sampras peaked in ranking points in 1995, but was a threat to win slams up to 2002).

If you're above the line you win more titles than your max ranking might have led us to believe, if life was just as simple as plugging things into a linear formula. You can argue that Lendl somewhat underachieved: he went 8 for 19 in GS finals (he holds the record for finals reached in the Open Era). Sampras, by contrast, was 14/18, with two losses coming right at the tail end of his career.

Before I publish the next post I'm certainly going to research Vilas. No guarantees on any other players.

Posted by CIRE 10/23/2007 at 03:06 PM

hey correct me if im wrong, BUT....

i think another way to read the correlation coefficient chart (btwn rankings and majors) is that all the players who fall north of the red line "overachieved" while players who fall south "underachieved"

(this entire group is supremely talented and clearly lists some of the best names in tennis history, so to say anyone from this subset "underachieved" is strictly semantics, but you get my point... its within the context of the reasoning..)

Posted by Sam 10/23/2007 at 03:09 PM

Andrew: Right, prior to the 2000 USO, Sampras was 13-2 in GS finals, then lost in 2000 and 2001 before winning the 2002 USO final. Federer has a chance to match that start the next time he reaches a GS final.

Posted by Snoo Foo 10/23/2007 at 04:43 PM

ptenisnet, so far all the #1s except Roger Federer have been "temporary no. 1."

Magnus Norman is coaching someone now but I forgot who. Soderling?

Posted by Snoo Foo 10/23/2007 at 04:49 PM

Oh yeah OSW tojo himself. Magnus Norman and Goran I. had 2 matches in 1997 in which the total ace count was 60 or higher, and one of those was over a mere 3 sets.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/23/2007 at 05:41 PM

Yeah, but kafelnikov was no.1 for like a month. And I think he became no.1 because sampras dropped some points during that time. Not because he won anything. Or something like that.

BTW did you know?
"Kafelnikov starred in Virtua Tennis, an arcade tennis game. In that game, he has a strong backhand."

Posted by Andy Foreman 10/23/2007 at 05:43 PM

Brilliant analysis and use of correlation to draw conclusions. Kudos!!!

Posted by Rosangel 10/23/2007 at 07:22 PM

Jenn: All the ideas were Andrew's - all I did was cast an eye over the wording.

Posted by Sam 10/23/2007 at 07:30 PM

Very interesting. Too bad we can only measure the Open era here. I wish there was a way we could compare greats like Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall to Federer and Rafa but we can't. This article proves another thing, tennis is a constantly evolving game and points used to mean next to nothing.

By the way, who is the red-haired guy in the top photo? I recognize John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, but who is the other guy?

Posted by Sam 10/23/2007 at 07:56 PM

Boris Becker is the other guy in the picture.

Posted by Bismarck 10/23/2007 at 08:15 PM

Sam telling Sam that the red haired dude is becker. ;)
please tell me that boris´ 15 minutes of fame aren´t already over. he is one of our few claims to tennis greatness.

Posted by Sam 10/23/2007 at 08:17 PM

Bismarck: Nah, I think Becker is still quite well-known.

Posted by Sam 10/23/2007 at 08:30 PM

Well known to most, that is. :-)

Posted by Snoo Foo 10/23/2007 at 10:35 PM

His fame is not over but his red hair is.

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Wild Women of the U.S. Open
Wild Men of the U.S. Open
Roddick's Imperfect World
"It's Kind of a Dance"
Nadal's Kneeds
The Racquet Scientist: Canadian Tennis
The Long and Short of It
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